On the 27 June 1838 an estimated 70,000 people attended a political gathering on the Town Moor where prominent Chartists, among them the Chartist leader, Feargus O’Connor, delivered speeches that explained the history of parliamentary representation and the aims of the Chartist movement. Newcastle trades were represented by banners, numerous bands entertained the crowds, and it was reported that the crowds jammed two miles of road. The Northern Star, the principal Chartist newspaper, thought the meeting was ‘the most splendid display of the working classes ever witnessed in England’. The newspaper severely criticised the authorities for sending in detachments of the 5th Dragoon Guards and the 52nd foot (‘who marched ‘close to the hustings with fixed bayonets’) to intimidate the gathering; indeed the Star’s reporter went so far as to state that if it had not been for the actions of the Chartist leaders, a ‘dreadful and sanguinary combat’, one reminiscent of the infamous ‘Peterloo’ massacre of 1819 in Manchester, would have resulted. While this was the largest political meeting in the region since the Reform Act agitation of 1832, historians have seen it as an isolated event, as it was not until late the spring of 1839 that Chartism really took root in the region. A huge meeting would be held on Whit Monday 1839 which drew 80,000, with considerable numbers coming from the outlying villages—such as the iron-making centre of Winlaton—that traditionally supplied the bulk of Chartist strength. 1839 has been described as the high-point of Tyneside Chartism; in the 1840s the organised movement declined as economic conditions improved and other issues, such as trade unionism and the collier strike of 1844, claimed attention.
R. G. Gammage, History of the Chartist Movement (1894), pp. 22-8; D. J. Rowe, ‘Some aspects of Chartism on Tyneside’, International Review of Social History, 16:1 (1971), pp. 17-39; Northern Star, 30 June 1839.